“Sam’s Super Seats” Author Keah Brown on Finding Comfort Within Yourself

Photo of Author Keah Brown as well as the book cover for "Sam's Super Seats"

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Michela Buttignol / Keah Brown

Author and activist Keah Brown wanted to combat the notion that being disabled and being cute were mutually exclusive. In 2017, she created the hashtag #disabledandcute. As a Black, disabled woman, Brown posted 'cute' photos of herself as a call to action. She encouraged others in the disabled and non-binary communities to post their own pictures. As the hashtag went viral, she became a powerhouse voice for her community. Brown was dedicated to bringing change and challenging the way in which media and pop culture depicts disabilities and addressing the lack of representation in the entertainment industry.

Keah Brown is not only a voice for those in the disabled community but also an accomplished author and journalist. Her debut book titled, "The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, And Other Reasons To Fall in Love, with Me" was published in 2019. A collection of essays, it dove into what it means to be a Black disabled woman in an ableist White America.

In "The Pretty One," Brown writes, “The truth is chairs are a meaningful part of my life and the lives of disabled folks alike who need a moment, a place to just be as the world moves around us at whatever pace it chooses. Chairs are a functioning reprieve from the harsh realities of the world, and they often give us tickets to see it in all its beauty and problems, because no one place is perfect - but it is nice to be in places that come close.” 

In her first children’s book called “Sam’s Super Seats,” Brown beautifully expands on this idea and sanctuary of chairs. The picture book follows Sam, a girl with cerebral palsy who has a day of fun back-to-school shopping with her friends at the mall. It isn’t until Sam needs rest and finds a chair that isn’t so comfortable that she comes up with a grand idea.  

“Sam’s Super Seats,” touches on the power of rest, the beauty of self-love, and the need for accessible seating in public spaces. Keah Brown spoke with Verywell Family, reflecting on her journey, her book, and advice on how to be more inclusive of the disabled community.

Verywell Family: What inspired "Sam’s Super Seats?"

Keah Brown: "Sam’s Super Seats" came about because my brilliant editor Sydnee Monday read my first book, "The Pretty One," which was a collection of essays, and really enjoyed one of the essays in the book about chairs. We got to talking about the importance of comfort, listening to your body, asking for what you need, and letting rest be an adventure. This conversation led me to think about what kind of story I wish I had when I was younger, and that is the story that features adventure, friendship, platonic and familial love, and back-to-school excitement that told me that it was OK to be exactly who I am and I hope that this is that story for young kids who read it today. 

Keah Brown

I think in many ways Sam is the kid that I wish I was friends with at that age.

— Keah Brown

VWF: How does "Sam’s Super Seats" shadow your own experience growing up with cerebral palsy?

KB: I think in many ways Sam is the kid that I wish I was friends with at that age. She is much more confident than I was, though we share being extroverts and a love of our friends and cute clothes. Growing up with cerebral palsy for me was actually no big deal until I got to my middle school years and so, with "Sam’s Super Seats" it was important for me to live in that feeling of it being no big deal for this little girl. I did as much because I wanted to show little kids with disabilities that while it is a part of their lives it doesn’t have to be every aspect of it. There is nothing wrong with having moments where it can be no big deal when all you want to do is go back to school shopping with your friends and your mom who loves you.

VWF: What exactly are Sam's super seats and what do they represent to you? Why did Sam name one after ballet dancer Misty Copeland?

KB: Super seats are the chairs or resting places that make you feel safe, confident, excited, happy, and most importantly, comfortable.  For Sam, these chairs are in many ways extensions of who she is. You have Misty, a world-renowned ballet dancer, and Sam who loves to dance, Laney (her mom’s car backseat) loves to make people laugh and so does Sam. We meet Maya, the mall bench when Sam is tired and just like anyone, sometimes being tired is uncomfortable. The difference is Sam learns to ask for what she needs, which is a rest and hopefully next time some pillows to make it a little more comfortable.

Sam named one of the chairs after Misty Copeland because she loves to dance. Her favorite thing to do outside of hanging out with her parents and her best friends is going to dance class and then going home to show Misty what she has learned! They pirouette “together” after every dance class.

VWF: What is your favorite part of the book? My favorite is the line: “Mommy squeezes my hand like she does when she wants me to remember that she loves me. I remember. I love her too.” 

KB: I know that I wrote it but I tear up every time I read it.

VWF: What do you want children to take away from "Sam's Super Seats?" What about parents?

KB: I want children to take away from the book that rest is an adventure and that they can have fun getting ready to go back to school and spending time with the people who love them. I also want them to know that it’s OK to take breaks and to rest when your body is tired.

My hope is that this book opens up conversations between parents and their children. Especially, parents of disabled children...and allows them to see that their children can be much more and are much more than their disabilities. I hope that this book fosters conversations of interdependence, dreams, hopes, and excitement for a future where it’s not so rare to see disabled children represented in children’s books. I also just hope that parents and children have a good time reading it together. I hope [at] the very least they can take away a fond memory of sharing the story with each other.

Keah Brown

...disability is not a death sentence nor is it a burden or problem or thing that needs to be healed or fixed in some way.

— Keah Brown

VWF: What would you say to those who may have a distorted view of what disabled people can or can't do?

KB: I would say please think beyond the trappings of what society has taught you about disability. Disabled people can and do so much whether that’s in a creative field or outside of it, disability is not a death sentence nor is it a burden or problem or thing that needs to be healed or fixed in some way. Disabled people deserve respect and having a distorted view of what we can and can’t do because you’ve seen or heard some ableist ramblings, simply means that you’re missing out. 

VWF: What advice do you have for children struggling to accept their disability? And what would you say to people, so they are more inclusive?

KB: I would say to children struggling to accept their disability that I hope that they give themselves and someone is there to give them grace. I understand firsthand what that struggle is like and what it means to be different and how sometimes those differences make you feel less than or small or not important but I can tell you that you are important and that you do matter and that even in your fight to accept yourself, please know that I am rooting for you. 

Keah Brown

I can tell you that you are important and that you do matter and that even in your fight to accept yourself, please know that I am rooting for you. 

— Keah Brown

My hope, for people, in order to be more inclusive and also just [be] a genuinely decent person is that they start looking to make friends with people who do not share their same experiences. That they surround themselves with people who are different from them in a variety of ways. My other hope is that people do the work of asking questions and answering them, themselves. Don’t use your marginalized friends as your personal Google search do the work to prove that this person or people in your life matter outside of what they can teach you.

VWF: Why is representation so important for young people, especially in seeing a Black disabled character in a children's book? 

KB: I think that representation is important because you can’t be what you can’t see right? So growing up I never knew that it was possible to see someone like me in a children’s book because I didn’t. However, now that "Sam’s Super Seats" is in the world maybe some Black disabled person [will] see this book and know that it is possible for them as well.

VWF: In part, "Sam's Super Seats" is about self-love and self-care. What do you do when you get frustrated with the way in which the world sometimes views and treats the disabled community? What does your self-care consist of?

KB: What I do first when I get frustrated with the way in which the world sometimes views and treats the disabled community is talking it through in therapy, I find that it always makes me feel better. I also make an active effort to step away when I find myself getting frustrated by the opinions and thoughts of others because I find that the only thing that I can control is how I react to the negativity and I try my best to focus on the things I can change and the people willing to listen and learn and less on the people who were never going to see me in the first place. My self-care consists of hanging out with friends, traveling, going to concerts, listening to Paramore. Loving Drew Barrymore etc. 

VWF: What is one thing you would tell parents of children with disabilities that they may not know?

KB: I want to tell the parents of children with disabilities that even though the world can be a scary place it’s important not to shelter, infantilize, dismiss or discount your child. I feel very grateful that I grew up with a mom who truly believed in me and knew that I could do whatever it was that I set my mind to even if that meant finding workarounds or adapting things to fit my abilities. I want that for every disabled child, and I hope that every parent of a disabled child can do their best to give that to their child.

1 Source
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  1. Sigurjónsdóttir HB. Cultural representation of disability in children’s literature. Palgrave Macmillan. 2015:(1);115-30. doi:10.1057/9781137032645_8

By Chelsie DeSouza
Chelsie DeSouza is a writer specializing in parenting, sharing her knowledge on all stages of motherhood. She has a 5-year-old daughter and has been writing for the last 3 years with bylines in WHYY, The Everymom, Mother Mag, and more.